Tuesday, 1 February 2011
Fratelli (e sorelle) d'Italia
Italians are anomalous creatures. They're like unicorns on the American pop culture landscape: rare, fleeting and seemingly fictional. I suppose it doesn't help that they have done little to market themselves in North America. Italian restaurants are few and they have nary a celebrity chef to disseminate the local cuisine. Even more traditional pursuits have been ignored. They could certainly benefit from a film about their country; one to celebrate a bygone era of glamour with an all-star Hollywood cast, perhaps? Or they could look to other cultures who have gained international recognition through a creative expression like design or literature or music. It might behoove the Italians to foster athletics among their populace. Famous athletes would certainly help to boost their presence, or at the very least, establish a national sport with international appeal. It's a pity, really. All Italy needs is some good PR.
Thank heavens MTV had the presence of mind to create a television program about "Italians" for America. It's called Jersey Shore and it follows the lives of a group of young people of "Italian" descent as they navigate the day-to-day tasks of being healthy, attractive and hygienic. This group, with their highly stylized hair, original outfits and impressive command of the English language, is just what Italy needed to represent them overseas. What sets them apart from other reality actors you see on television is their entrepreneurial spirit — it's not every day that a TV personality writes an august tome or channels their staggering creative talent into a line of couture for the masses. And yet they aren't elitist nor do they hide their true selves from the cameras. They are not ashamed to be human, for they are "Italians." Hath they not big hair, tight shirts and rock hard abs? If they fall from a bar stool, do they not bleed? If they drink, will they not be arrested?
In a charming twist, this merry band will be transported to Italy to film their next season where they will surely be welcomed with open arms by their motherland. Italy and its inhabitants, although utterly unaware of the existence of this crew and the positive image they've been promoting across America, will undoubtedly embrace their long lost bambini and all the endearing brouhaha they will stir. All eyes will be on Italy and its lush mountains, sparkling seas, breathtaking architecture and effortlessly styled citizens, all of which will be juxtaposed against the "Italians" of Jersey Shore. They will appreciate the international attention these visitors will elicit and gladly allow them to carry on painting a picture of their culture with loud, garish strokes and booze-goggled turbidity.
Italy will be thrilled. And their opinion of America is sure to soar. Buon viaggio, Jersey Shore.